A country of gamblers: But what are we spending our dollar on?

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A country of gamblers: But what are we spending our dollar on?

Gambling is one of the biggest recreational activities in the country and is growing every day. We take a brief look at the areas where New Zealanders are playing with their hard earned cash…


Sky city casino

It’s no secret that as a nation us Kiwis enjoy a flutter. The Cricket World Cup is well underway and plenty of fans are putting their money on Brendan McCullum and co to bring home the trophy in Melbourne on March 29. But that isn’t the half of it when it comes to putting our money down and hoping for the best.

In 2013 alone, residents of God’s Own Country lost around $500 each, leaving plenty of them cursing the big man outside bookmakers and casinos. But where are we staking that money?

Going For Gold On The Gee-gees

It wasn’t until 1961 when betting on the horses became legal, and natives have certainly made up for it. Betting on sport has become a major part of gambling in the country, with thousands of people heading down to the track every weekend to cheer a rider on to victory.

Of course central to that is the Spring Classic at Hawke’s Bay. The richest race in the country even allows players to take on the high-rollers for a $20,000 prize pot. That’s followed by the Auckland Cup which sees high amounts wagered and the Melbourne Cup across the Tasman Sea, which regularly sees bets top $800million worldwide.


Casino both online and off has become huge over the last few years, creating huge debate over advertising products in the country. Currently that is illegal, but with the vast amounts of people signing up and bumping up their chip stack, questions are being asked about whether the laws should be lifted.

Tournaments hit the likes of Skycity constantly, whilst the likes of Full Tilt, to name one of the best-known brands in the online casino space, have tens of thousands of Kiwi’s playing along. The 2013 figures show that the island country out gambles Ireland, Italy, and Great Britain when it comes to having a flutter in the casino, with the likes of poker, blackjack, and backgammon creating big gatherings round the green velvet.

And some Kiwis have got pretty good. Lee Nelson and David Yan have both made well over $1million in winnings, with Yan picking up a $314,669 pot in October finishing second in a World Series of Poker event in Melbourne.


But perhaps the most popular source of gaming for adults in New Zealand – and indeed Australia – are our little friends, pokies. They’ve caused huge debates over the last few years, with campaigns to see less in major cities, but New Zealanders do simply love them.

Found in many hotels, bars, and bookmakers, there are a staggering amount dotted across the country, at one point in 2008 almost 20,000 in fact, and are essentially the same as slot machines which can be found in Las Vegas, Britain, or anywhere where gambling is legal.

But it has found a home in Oceania. Such is the popularity of them that in 2013, Skycity Auckland installed 230 extra machines to the table in exchange for building a $402million convention centre.


Like Britain, the USA, and Spain, households sit around to watch lottery draws every week to see if their lives have been transformed.

Introduced to the country in 1933, lotteries have become a staple in New Zealand’s gambling culture, with Lotto now being the main game for residents to play.

However, it took a while for a worthwhile lottery to capture the country’s imagination, with small returns in the early days encouraging New Zealanders to illegally purchase tickets for neighbouring Australia’s Tattersall lottery.

Today jackpots go well into the millions with a range of other games including Keno, Bullseye, and Powerball all being run by the New Zealand Lotteries Commission.